Friday, May 22, 2015

How I fell out of love with George Galloway

A guest post by Alex Skinner

My first clear memory of George Galloway is of him being interviewed on TV assailing the blind, anti-Scottish unionism of the Major government, which had just been re-elected, as one of the founders of the pro-devolution Scotland United group. I was eighteen and I liked his oratory and his politics: a left-winger standing up for Scotland and demanding change.

Later I came to love him, in the way some people love able political rhetoricians who seem to embody their most cherished political beliefs. The apogee came with the Iraq War of 2003, as George stood against the Bushite drive to make the world a much more dangerous place. I was one of the million who marched in London against that disaster. Later I cheered as he took Bethnal Green and Bow from a New Labourite and his performance – and that really is the right word – before the US Senate was one of the most striking pieces of political theatre I’d ever seen. I and thousands of others on the left lapped it up.

As a supporter of independence I was disappointed that George was against, but I accepted it as the one major area we disagreed on. Hell, the wonderful Tony Benn was against too. You can’t have it all.

Then came two events that changed everything.

The first was the referendum. It’s not that George campaigned against it. That was predictable. It was the strangeness and weakness of the arguments he put forward: there are too many borders already in the world, independence would trigger a race to the bottom, Sturgeon is Thatcher in a kilt.

The anti-borders stance has validity in certain contexts, no doubt. But in Scotland’s case? Surely if you are horrified by the idea of a Scottish state emerging, logically you ought to campaign – putting a difficult history behind us – for Ireland to re-join the UK. Surely you ought to bewail the fact that Norway became independent in the early 20th century, leaving a union with Sweden. The unionist logic is that the world is definitely a worse-off place because of those two countries sharing the Scandinavian peninsula. That seems, well, let’s be polite - a pretty strange idea.

The race-to-the-bottom theory seems deeply flawed as well, and has in fact been comprehensively debunked on Wings Over Scotland. It seems to me far more likely that a surging Scotland would breathe new life into these islands both economically and politically. A race to the top, if you will.

Nicola-as-Maggie is almost too stupid to comment on, and ironically I reckon she and George would agree on most things with the obvious exception of independence. There was a surreal moment during the referendum campaign when George sat next to his fellow unionist Ruth Nae-Vision, facing Nicola and Patrick Harvey. George painted a horrific picture of – get this – the financial sector fleeing Scotland in the event of independence! Astonished as I was at what my icon had become, at least it let Nicola come back with a nice slapdown.

Though I was rapidly falling out of love with George by this point, the camel’s back was finally broken by something rather more than a straw. I’d never bought the right-wing attacks on George over his critiques of the Israeli government. It seemed to me he was merely speaking the truth about, frankly, a bunch of criminals. But then he said something that sickened and stunned me: that he didn’t want Israeli tourists to come to Bradford (probably not the number one holiday hotspot that they dream about in the cafes of Tel Aviv – but that’s not the point). This was not a valid attack on the Israeli state and its disgusting policies. This was the demonisation, at least potentially, of every Israeli citizen, logically including even those who disagree with their government and campaign against it. That may not have been what he meant, but it’s what he said, and to my knowledge he’s failed to correct it. A line had been crossed.

My love affair with George is over, though I’ll always acknowledge his progressive credentials, particularly his anti-war leadership. I must admit I’m curious what he’ll say when Scotland really does emerge as a progressive beacon, ridding itself of nukes, pushing renewables, protecting the NHS and free higher education and – I dare hope – lifting a million Scots out of poverty.

Who knows, if he can admit he was wrong about independence and his grotesque comment about Israelis, maybe one day the spark of love can flicker to life again. But I’m not holding my breath.

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This is guest post no. 5 since I launched my 'appeal'.  Guest posts are welcome on any topic (within reason!).  My contact details can be found at the top of the sidebar.


  1. "My love affair with George is over, though I’ll always acknowledge his progressive credentials....."

    I don't know what your definition of 'progressive' is but mine would certainly not include the sectarian Islamist agenda of the Respect Party.


      "Respect's disrespect for LGBT people is part of a pattern. One of the party's top leaders, Lindsay German, notoriously warned that gay rights are not a 'shibboleth' and should not prevent Respect forging electoral alliances with homophobic religious fundamentalist groups.

      "Respect is in alliance with the right-wing, anti-gay Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. Respect does not ally with liberal and left-wing Muslims.

      "The MAB endorses the recreation of an Islamic Caliphate where Muslims would be subjected to the barbarism of Sharia law, which includes the execution of unchaste women, apostates and gay people.

      "Respect has betrayed progressive Muslims, in favour of an alliance with Islamist conservatives and fundamentalists whose policies on gay and women's rights are even more reactionary than those of the despicable neo-Nazi BNP.

      "Respect has failed to defend gay Muslims against fundamentalist Islamists and it attacks gay rights groups that support Muslim queers.


      A leading member of George Galloway's Respect party, Adam Yosef, has urged violence against human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

      The astonishing attack was made by Adam Yosef in his column in the Asian weekly entertainment newspaper, Desi Xpress, on 6-12 January 2006

      His article advises readers to violently attack Tatchell, stating that he (Tatchell) "needs a good slap in the face."

      In a naked appeal to homophobia and xenophobia, Yosef goes on to urge Australian-born Tatchell and his "queer campaign army" to "pack their bent bags and head back to Australia ."

      Mr Yosef has a history of homophobic outbursts in Desi Xpress. In a December issue of the newspaper (Issue 42), he ridiculed same-sex civil partnerships: " weddings... Gay people and commitment? I don't think so... They'll be shagg*ng the neighbours before they even cut the cake. Bad idea I'm afraid. Great way of evading tax though..."

      As well as being a prominent member of Galloway's Respect party, Yosef has done press and PR work for Respect leaders like Salma Yaqoob and Dr Mohammed Naseem. Dr Naseem is also Home Affairs spokesperson for the Islamic Party of Britain, which advocates the death penalty for homosexuality and the banning of gay organisations. Mr Yosef is a leading light in the Stop The War Movement, and has worked with the Socialist Workers Party.

    3. Perhaps more pertinent than the comments of *one man* is Respect's manifesto, which is committed to gay rights.
      But dare to go deeper. Remember that in Northern Ireland, for example, peace was achieved by building alliances between highly imperfect people and parties, some of whose views and past actions were pretty terrible (on both sides). Why should it be different today when building alliances with Muslim groups, some of whose views we would both disagree with?
      It's comforting to sit in a little Telegraph and Mail created bubble, point at the nasty Muslims and feel all superior.
      But it's not constructive.

    4. "Perhaps more pertinent than the comments of *one man* is Respect's manifesto, which is committed to gay rights."

      Well that 'one man' is Peter Tatchell, a man with impeccable credentials to comment on these things.

      Imagine if a UKIP spokesman had said similar things about gay people. The Left would have been in uproar, and rightly so. So why hold Respect to different standards?

      "It's comforting to sit in a little Telegraph and Mail created bubble, point at the nasty Muslims and feel all superior."

      I am against political parties forming alliances with Muslim groups that advocate the stoning women accused of adultery, executing gays, etc, etc. Aren't you?

      I am all in favour of working with Muslims to forge a tolerant and cohesive society. But you won't get that from the Muslim Association of Britain any more than you would get it from working with, for example, the EDL or the Klu Klux Klan.

  2. He's always been equally graceful in victory and defeat. I recall him going onto the stage at Hillhead in the 1992 election, with a look of manic glee on his face, hissing in Sandra White's ear: "Fourth! Fourth!"

    But surely it was the "indefatigability" incident which first marked him out as a perfect tosser. Don't see how anyone could have been "in love" with him after that episode. He's basically Donald Rumsfeld.

    1. He was on a peace mission, what do you expect: "hey evil dictator!"
      George was campaigning against Saddam when he was still the West's great buddy

    2. He was on a peace mission, what do you expect: "hey evil dictator!"

      Why not? That was the approach he used with Bush and Blair in 2003, when he was trying to get them not to go to war. On that occasion, he didn't seem to feel that the sensitive diplomatic situation required him to dribble on about how people were naming their children after these courageous titans.

      Anyway, what "peace mission" was this? Iraq wasn't waging war on anyone in 1994, and had no prospect of ever being able to do so again.

    3. He was trying to stop sanctions that were killing lots of Iraqis. But hey, focus instead on the *form of words he used when meeting Saddam*, if that's what you feel is more important.

  3. Have to say my bromance with the hatted one has lost its glow too. Still, I think he's right about the Israeli tourist thing. They claim everything they do is peachy because they are allegedly "the region's only democracy". Well, if they are, them the citizens have to take the load for their government's actions. If they keep voting for nut jobs like "Bibi", they don't get to disavow what he does. You can't have it both ways.

    1. That argument only really works if you treat the entire population as one massive, homogenous lump who all support the same agenda.
      I would expect that a pro-independence supporter of all people would realise that the government you get isn't necessarily the government everybody voted for.
      Slapping all Israelis with the extremist brush would be like calling us all supporters of the Conservatives because David Cameron is in No10.

      But that's what Galloway tends to do, there's little room for nuance when you're running high on righteous outrage. The rest of us can try and be a little more discriminating, I would hope.

  4. Galloway had the talent to be a Labour PM but character flaws let him down like it does many of us. But he is a genius orator

  5. good to see any comment on Israel that doesn't feature accusations of anti-semitism.

  6. I'm no fan of the pink feline one, but there is one performance of his I wholeheartedly applaud. There is a recording somewhere of a radio show where I think he was the host, and he was interviewing Frank Duggan, the US Department of Justice lawyer who is the public face of the US families of Pan Am flight 103.

    Duggan is used to being allowed to speak unchallenged, and to represent the case against Megrahi and Libya as being inontrovertibly proved. As most people in Scotland know, that is by no means the case. Duggan's usual form is simply to make up whatever evidence he pleases, secure in the knowledge that nobody will know he's lying, or challenge him even if they do.

    George went for him. Almost everything Duggan says in the interview is a lie, and George knew it. He himself had the knowledge to be able to call Duggan on his lies, and the intervew ended when Duggan angrily put the phone down on him.

    It's glorious.